Gambling adverts under attack?

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The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) recently banned bookmaker, BGO’s, latest TV advert, stating that its depiction of the fictional main character may lead to the impression that this man’s wealth was derived from gambling and that a viewer could do the same.

Now, having seen the advert myself, it is safe to say it will not be winning any awards for creativity or production values. However, you cannot ban adverts for poor execution. What you can ban adverts for, is misleading the public or glamourising certain subjects (gambling being one of them).

The question is, did the BGO ad mislead or glamourise gambling? In all honesty, Heads&Heads cannot see it. In our view the purpose of the ad is to poke fun at gambling bosses and motivate viewers to try and beat the boss. Does it glamourise gambling? Not really, it states quite clearly that the fictional character is the boss of BGO, not a player. Does it mislead? Once again, not really, when you gamble there is the possibility that you can win money, this is a fact.

This was clearly not how the ASA viewed the ad, stating; “the overall impression of the ad was that the man’s wealth was derived from his gambling wins, which viewers could also achieve”. Now, all TV ads have to be pre-approved, meaning that adverts only come to the attention of the ASA if it receives complaints from viewers.

So, for such an aggressive ban of BGO’s advert, you’d think the number of complaints would be significant, right? Well, the grand total of complaints came to……..two. Just two complaints were enough to warrant this reaction.

Now to be clear, Heads&Heads is not leaping to the defence of bookmakers here. We are all too aware of how some bookmakers seem to hide crucial terms and conditions from the user. However, in this instance, we do think the bookmaker has a point. Yes, there needs to be scrutiny over misleading adverts, however this sort of heavy handedness affects everyone, including us matched bettors.

One of the more humorous quotes to come out of this saga, came from the CEO at, who when asked as to what kind of adverts the industry should responded with; “Or maybe the ASA should only allow gambling advertising where Ray Winstone gets repeated hit in the face by cricket bat while hymns are sung because then we would all know where we stand”. On a side note, we think this would make for an incredible advert.

However, we digress. In all seriousness, this is a worrying trend. In their attempt to clean up the gambling industry the ASA and Government are opting for the shotgun, rather than the scalpel. The result will be, nervous bookmakers, unsure as to whether they will get a slap on the wrist for their latest offer. This is something we, as matched bettors, most certainly do not want happening. The more adverse bookmakers are to promoting offers, the less there will be and that will in turn impact our profit.

The criticism in the media that the ASA is currently receiving for this decision is far more significant than the two complaints it received which triggered the ban. Let’s hope this fosters more consideration over their next decision involving the gambling industry.